VEEDERSBURG — The Mustangs of Fountain Central will have their hands full Saturday when they open the Class A Section 45 football tournament.
They will entertain unbeaten South Putnam, ranked as high as No. 4 in some polls. The Eagles are 9-0.
The Mustangs have been caught up in COVID-related issues at both the front and back of the regular season. They finished 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the WRC.
But everyone is 0-0 coming into the postseason, and FC coach Ryan Hall knows that that his squad has some momentum coming in, as they broke a 19-game losing streak with a win in their last game.
“Just being able to play some football this season is a highlight for us,” the coach said. “Every week we never knew if it was going to be the last time being together. Watching these guys enjoy the game of football and being together were definitely highlights this year.”
The Mustangs ran for 165 yards a game, led by Austin Pickett’s 649 yards and 12 touchdowns. The junior averaged better than 100 yards per outing. Controlling the run and line of scrimmage will be crucial Saturday.
“We have to control the clock,” Hall said. “We have to be able to pick up first downs, and score when the opportunities are there.”
Defensively, the Mustangs will have to slow down an Eagles offense that averaged 372 yards a game.
“We have to make them earn their yards,” Hall said. “Do not give up the big plays and try to create some turnovers or long downs.”
Cole Kirkpatrick leads the defense with 50 stops, followed by Luke Adams with 49.
South Putnam is led by senior quarterback Riley Stone, who has thrown for 1,294 yards and 17 TDs. Two sophomores, Luke Switzer and Jeremiah Hibbeln, have rushed for nearly 1,200 yards.
What Hall and his coaching staff have looked for, and found, is improvement.
“We have improved in our overall knowledge of football and what it take to compete every week,” he said. Every Friday night we competed and didn’t look at the scoreboard. These players and coaches worked hard all season long.”
The coach also gave that hard work credit to his seniors, who have weathered much and were rewarded with the streak-breaking win at North Vermillion two weeks ago.
“Our seniors, Luke Adams, Seth Gayler, Matthew Alexander-Smith, Colten Badgley, Joey Sims and Cole Kirkpatrick, are the guys who have stuck with playing Mustang football and will be missed once our season is over,” he said.
Kickoff at Wildman Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner advances to the second round to play the winner of the Attica-North Vermillion game.